What Does the Law Say About Child Custody and Relocation in Georgia?

Parental relocation with the children is a big decision after a divorce. It affects everyone involved, especially the non-custodial parent because it interferes with their visitation rights. The relationship with their children can become strained if regular communication is cut off. That explains why courts take relocation with children cases seriously.

Child custody laws in Georgia require both parents to strictly abide by the rules created in a child custody agreement. However, sometimes, changes in circumstances make it impossible for one or both parents to adhere to the rules. If you’re a father worried your ex-spouse might relocate with the children, consult skilled family law attorneys in Alpharetta for legal counsel.

They can explain the conditions that must be met before the relocation and even guide you on protecting your rights as a father. They can also advise you on the steps to take if you’re the custodial parent faced with a relocation decision.

What Are My Rights As a Father in a Relocation Case?

Before you can fight for a child’s custody or visitation rights, the law in Georgia requires you to establish those rights if you’re an unwed father. This happens through establishing paternity and legitimation. Paternity establishes an obligation for child support but doesn’t give you any custody or visitation rights, and that’s where legitimation comes in.

Legitimizing the relationship with your children proves that you have a meaningful relationship with them, which has been ongoing since they were young. It gives you an edge when fighting for custody or visitation rights.

Legitimation is often complex, with several factors to consider. Working with experienced father’s rights lawyers in Alpharetta would be in your best interest to adequately evaluate your options and help you prepare for the process.

Can the Custodial Parent Just Relocate with the Children?

In most cases, courts award custody to one parent, meaning the child lives with that parent while the other gets visitation rights. In the past, the custodial parent could decide to move and do so without any legal procedures. However, the courts determined that doing so is not in the children’s best interests.

Nowadays, courts allow or disapprove relocation on a case-by-case basis, given that each situation differs. While some non-custodial parents give consent to the custodial parent to relocate with the children, others may not agree to the move, so the courts come in to decide.

What Factors Do Courts Consider in Approving or Denying Parental Relocation with the Children?

Relocation is not solely about the distance between the original and the new residence. Courts consider how the change would affect the non-custodial parent’s rights to exercise their visitation rights and spend time with their children. A relocation within the same neighborhood or county may not be considered a relocation.

Factors that judges evaluate when deciding whether to approve the relocation revolve around the children’s best interests, such as the following:

  • The children’s relationship with the non-custodial parent
  • The children’s ties with the current school or local community programs
  • The age of the children and their ability to process the changes
  • The custodial parent’s reasons for moving away, such as substantial material changes in circumstances
  • Whether the relocation will create significant instability in an already fragile situation
  • The benefits of the relocation to the child, such as being close to the extended family for better support and care
  • The alternative options available to meet all family needs

Judges may also speak to children over 14 to determine their interests and wishes about the relocation. However, the children’s opinions may not always be used to make the final decision, as the final decision ultimately lies with the court.

What If I Am the Custodial Parent Considering Relocation?

You could be a custodial father considering relocation because you believe it’s in your children’s best interests. However, do not move without consulting Alpharetta’s fathers’ rights attorneys to help you adhere to Georgia’s relocation requirements and laws. You may not relocate with the children without your ex-spouse’s consent. You also must provide a notice at least 30 days before moving.

The 30-day notice gives the other parent time to decide whether to accept the relocation or pursue other alternatives. If they don’t respond or you can’t agree on the relocation, the court must be involved in reaching a decision. As the custodial parent, you must petition the court for child custody modification.

You can get a modification to the initial child custody order in the following ways:

  • Agree with your ex-spouse to create a new custody agreement
  • Petition the court by providing a written notification of your intentions
  • Obtain a court order that allows the modification

If the situation allows, it’s best to work with your ex-spouse to create a new agreement to ensure you’re both involved in making decisions affecting your children. Doing so can help you avoid the lengthy court process by having the judge approve the modification to bind it legally. Seek the input of family law attorneys in Alpharetta to avoid legal mistakes.

A Skilled Fathers’ Rights Lawyer Protecting Your Rights in a Relocation Case

The law in Georgia seeks to uphold the relationship between a parent and their children after a divorce. Courts take relocation seriously and consider many factors before allowing a custodial parent to take the children away from the non-custodial parent. If you’re a non-custodial father wishing to protect your visitation rights in a relocation case, let fathers’ rights lawyers in Alpharetta help you.
Hecht Family Law is a family law firm with knowledgeable attorneys who can extend a helping hand to protect your rights as a father. We understand how important it is for you to maintain an ongoing relationship with your children, and we will work hard to obtain the most favorable outcome. Call us at (470) 291-5342 to schedule a FREE case assessment.